Destruction of life in war is tragic; destruction of culture is a calamity.
Riding through the winding, narrow streets of Tokyo gives you a sense of a poorly-planned city, hastily constructed post-war. The density is very different from Toronto, and the Golden Gai district is my case-in-point: dozens of bars cram in one narrow alleyway, each containing no more than six to ten seats.
During World War II, Tokyo was razed over two days of American firebombing in the single most destructive raid on Japan during the war.
Today, much of the city has been reconstructed from historical documents, photographs, and memory, as affirmations of peace and the ancient identity of the people who have inhabited these islands for the last ten thousand years.
One of those memories that is still celebrated is that of Emperor Meiji, a figure credited with modernizing Japan in the early 20th Century.
Meiji-Jingu is a 175 acre park replete with pristine gardens, carp and turtles swimming in the stream, perfectly manicured trees, and locals practising archery with eight-foot oak compound bows. It’s hard to stress what a huge area that is, and the diversity of life within the park.
It also has the grandest Tori gate I have seen.
A short ten minute hike along one of the dozen or so trails takes you to the main shrine area. Traditionally, people cleanse ritually, before presenting themselves to the deified spirits.
…and then pay homage.
The shrine is administered by monks who are very precise in their movements. Here, this gentleman bows as he passes the main shrine area.
An elegant, carefully manicured trees stands vigil over the prayers of the shrine’s visitors.
The structure itself is a mix of mostly Japanese cedar and copper, and is itself a work of art.
Meiji shrine is at once a powerful reminder of Japan’s historic culture for posterity, and a model exemplar that wabi-sabi transcends time.